pork and beluga lentils with harissa


I must be honest, I am not looking forward to tomorrow evening. Day one of the first class of my final year. I am four classes away from self-inflicted torture. Exams, tests, projects, theses etc... I dread my upcoming thesis nightmare as much as fire loves water. I've been conjuring up vacations in my head and already planning my summer trips for next year. 


I will miss my "free" evenings for one more year now. Perhaps, it would be more apt to say "education-free" evenings, either way another school year begins but at least its the final one. I must be more patient like Garfield.


I've been looking forward to slow cooking pork chops with the Harissa, I made recently. One mainly because I want to eat this Harissa soon and two because we got some nice cuts of pork. Chicken or beef would make excellent substitutes for pork. There is something marvelous about slow cooking in a crock-pot, the aromas in the room and the way the meat melts off the bone is simply amazing. If I could try to add anything to every meal, it would be beluga or black lentils. I love their creamy and meaty texture especially in Indian lentil broths like dals. This turned out to be a fairly easy dish that could be served with warmed pita or toasted bread slices. I like my pork shoulders to contain at least a small amount of fat when I begin with them, since pork chops that are too lean produce weak flavor and get dry during cooking. The advantage of cooking meat with their fats in a slow cooker allows for the rendering of the fat to produce nice complex flavors but also with the added advantage of skimming of all the excess fat from the top of the stew in the crock-pot. This way the fat serves its purpose and is then kicked out. This recipe does call for a whole bottle of wine, don't skimp, use a good quality white wine that you would serve to drink with your guests. I sometimes like to use wine instead of broths to cook meat with. 

pork and beluga lentils with harissa

yield: 6 servings

ingredients

2 cups beluga/black lentils
6 - 1" thick pork chops
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Harissa
2 tablespoons tomato paste
750ml Pinot Grigio
salt to season

1. Pre-soak the lentils overnight at room temperature. The next day, rinse the water off the lentils and keep aside. In the slow cooker or crock pot, adjust the temperature to the high setting and add the olive oil. When the oil heats up, add the harissa and tomato paste and saute it for about 3 minutes. 
2.Pour in the wine and mix the stew to a smooth liquid. Carefully, add in the pork chops and half a teaspoon of salt. Now, turn the setting on the cooker to the low setting and allow it to cook for 5 hours. 
3. After the pork chops are cooked, remove them from the resulting stew and let them rest covered with a lid. 
4. Add the beluga lentils to the broth in the pot and allow them to cook for a further one hour at the high setting. Skim and discard any excess fat from the surface of the broth and add the pork chops back to the stew. Serve hot with pita or toasted bread slices. 

avgolemono


What a way to start a post, an earthquake in Washington after 67 years! Thankfully, no one was hurt and damage appears to be minimal so far. Since, people started to panic getting home was a challenge with traffic gridlocks everywhere. Work gave us the remainder of the day off and I finally ended up walking home. This is my final post on lemons for now that completes my entire lemon themed lunch. I think I may have found my new favorite soup, Avgolemono, the egg-lemon soup that is so very popular in Greek cuisine. The creamy richness of this lemon soup makes for a wonderful dip for a warm and crusty slice of bread. I made several alterations to this soup, mainly through playing around with the components of my chicken stock. The addition of fennel stalks and leaves to the chicken stock was purely coincidence. Since, I can never figure out what to do with some vegetable parts that I am unable to use in some recipes, I normally freeze them and use them in making stocks. I substituted barley instead of short-grained rice that is usually used to make this soup. 


avgolemono

yield: 6 servings

ingredients

1.5 liters water
1lb lean chicken breast
1 whole red onion halved
4 cloves
4 bay leaves
1 lemon, chopped in half
1 bunch fennel leaves and stalk
6 unpeeled garlic cloves, cut in half
3 eggs separated
1/3 cup barley or short grain rice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
fresh mint or parsley for garnishing

1. In a large stockpot, add 1.5 liters of water, chicken, onion, cloves, bay leaves, the halved lemon, fennel, and garlic. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season. Slowly bring the water to boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let it simmer until the chicken is cooked. Remove the chicken and keep aside to cool. Strain the stock completely and discard the solids. 
2. Add the stock back to the stockpot and add the barley/rice to it and let it cook on a reduced flame until the rice is tender. In the meantime, shred the chicken. 
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites till they form stiff peaks and then beat in the yolks. Carefully, beat in the lemon juice. 
4. Now temper the eggs with approximately 150ml of the hot stock solution by immediately whisking it into the beaten egg mixture. Now add the entire tempered egg mixture to the stock pot with careful stirring. Make sure the stock is not boiling and is simmering, this will prevent the eggs from coagulating. 
5. Add the chicken and season the soup with salt and pepper as necessary. Serve the soup with fresh lemon slices in individual bowls. Garnish with fresh mint or parsley leaves.


Hopefully, no more calamities or traffic jams for a while or is that too much wishful thinking ?

gazpacho


I'm going to sign up for a cheese course at The Seasonal Pantry this month with my friend Shannon. It's time
I learned something about my favorite condiment/dairy delight/breakfast/tea.....all rounder and can't wait for the class soon enough. I've heard some fantastic reviews about The Seasonal Pantry from friends, so I think I am ready for this exciting class taught by the American Cheese Society, I really wonder if they sit and taste cheeses all day at their jobs, now that would be amazing.


This week we opened our C.S.A box to find an assortment of tomatoes of different colors and sizes. I could probably spend hours just staring at the different colors in the box and keep pondering on how to tackle them. Fortunately, we also had a couple of nice sized heirloom green bell peppers in our box which kind of pushed me towards making a gazpacho. Though, I think my motivation behind preparing gazpacho is the fact that we have returned back to the late 90's this week again and what better way than to get through the heat than with a chilled bowl of gazpacho at your side. On a side note, you can vary the final color of your gazpacho by playing around with the colors of your tomatoes and peppers, my soup turned out a bit orange due to the yellows and greens but if you wanted a red soup stick with red peppers and red tomatoes and if you wanted a more yellow soup use yellow colored produce.


Here's the recipe that I modified slightly from my copy of The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook, I love these cookbook series, they have almost everything in these books with beautiful pictures. Yes, I love pictures in cookbooks, I think cookbooks sometimes make better coffee table books than those on travelling.


gazpacho

yield: 4-6

ingredients

1 kg(2lb) tomatoes
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped 
2 large cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup white vine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of red chili hot sauce or 1 red chili, seeded

garnish 

1/2 Lebanese cucumber, seeded and diced
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 ripe tomato, diced
fresh basil leaves

1. Mark a cross at the base of each of the tomatoes, if you use small cherry or grape tomatoes like I did you don't need to cross them. Set a large pot of water to boil on the stove. Once the water is boiling, plunge the tomatoes in and let them boil for 10 minutes. Then remove the tomatoes and let them cool till you can handle them. Chop the head of the tomato and peel the skin off (I prefer to leave the skin for both the large and the small tomatoes).
2. Add the rest of the ingredients to a food processor ,except those for the garnish. Pulse and taste the mixture to see if it is seasoned well. Refrigerate to chill for at least two hours and then garnish before serving in individual bowls.

  
Gazpacho is one of those soups that gets better with time, I normally prefer to leave it in the refrigerator chilling for at least one day before I serve it. Coincidentally, I just remembered trying out a bowl of watermelon gazpacho at Matchbox in Chinatown last week. Matchbox is famous for its pizzas and 3-6-9 sliders but the wait times are terribly long and they have a no reservation policy which makes it challenging at times, but then again its well worth the wait.